The threat of municipal bankruptcy has been looming over Detroit for months. Now October 23rd is set as the court date to decide if Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has the legal authority to bankrupt us. The question is historic: Have economic interests in the U.S. finally become so powerful that the constitution no longer applies to Michigan citizens? Mr. Orr made the bankruptcy filing back in July even though his authority as supreme commander of Detroit had already been constitutionally challenged in Federal court by both AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) & the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Orr is cleverly dodging the issue of whether his power is legitimate because when he filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, federal bankruptcy Judge Rhodes stayed (paused) all the constitutional challenges.
In Frank Joyce’s piece on page four, he examines the economic and social roots of Detroit’s current crisis. Our problems are bigger than the city and so the solutions will have to be too. Detroit is going bankrupt and Orr is brokering a sweetheart deal of $450 Million in tax money (that would have gone to the schools) to build a hockey stadium for sports mogul Mike Ilitch. You can’t make this shit up. Emergency management isn’t a new way forward, it’s the same old messed up thing only worse because we can’t vote the bastard out. By building authentic community leadership with a radical analysis of power and connecting to national and international communities in our same boat, we can shift the balance of power toward real positive alternatives.
Where are we now? November 2013 will bring a mayoral election and it’s been a pretty rough going so far. Corporate media had no interest in giving coverage to any candidate besides Mike Duggan or Benny Napoleon during the primary so it’s just them on upcoming ballot. City lawyer and progressive favorite Krystal Crittendon was tossed aside as a ‘long shot’ and Tom Barrow took up his usual post at the laughing stock. Barrow did manage to make news when he challenged Duggan’s presence on the primary ballot, in violation of city residency rules for potential mayors. But that proved too little against Duggan’s seemingly bottomless campaign coffers.
When we consider the amount of money Duggan spent on his write-in campaign — billboards, radio ads, direct mailers and door-to-door canvassing — the Duggan team must have spent well into the millions just so people knew how to spell his last name correctly. That’s either the world’s most expensive spelling bee or the gestures of someone with very powerful and wealthy friends. Remember, this is the same person that helped transform the Detroit Medical Center into a for-profit corporation and mounted a full-court, union-busting blitz against the Michigan Nurses Association and DMC nurses when they tried to organize in 2007. Vanguard Health and many others stood to profit big-time money in those moves, and we’re certain those favors didn’t go unreturned.
Then there’s Benny. A cop. Something has seriously gone haywire when a city with long history of police brutality is on the cusp of electing a cop to the top office. It’s not a coincidence that Napoleon was Detroit’s top cop from 1995 to 2001, or that the Department of Justice imposed a Federal Consent Agreement on the Detroit Police Department in 2003, based on a continual pattern of excessive force. Napoleon has proposed assigning one police officer per square mile of the city to organize block clubs and as he describes in his plan available online, ‘aggressively enforce’ city ordinances for things like noise, graffiti, loitering and dumping. We don’t dispute that there are real day-to-day problems facing city residents, but has anyone ever said that the police—in Detroit or otherwise—need to be more aggressive? Coupled with their unapologetic support for racist stop-and-frisk policies and the newly-formed local, state and federal policing initiative known as Detroit One, Detroit cops will be harassing young black boys like it’s their job.
We are not a bankrupt city. Take a look around. We have something special going on here, thanks to hundreds of thousands people that choose to live here and our suburban friends that visit from time to time. Talk to your neighbors, join the weekly ‘slow-roll’ that’s taken the city by storm. Help promote counter-culture and stop in at one of the hundreds of galleries or music spaces that dot the city. Plug in with the coalition group Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (http://d-rem.org) and help fight the economic war being waged against Detroit by the banks. November will be here before we know it and Detroiters will be forced to choose between two dead ends: authoritarian rule or a corporate lovefest. Oppose the Tale of Two Cities being developed for Detroit—of a tax-funded downtown development and ignored and neglected neighborhoods—by adopting and endorsing the People’s Platform (http://www.unitingdetroiters.org). Hold officials (elected or otherwise) accountable to policies that promote liberty and justice for all. We here at Critical Moment don’t find that these mayoral candidates offer Detroiters real alternatives to the pro-Wall Street agenda that’s gotten us where we are today.